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Virginia Knowles Materials Review by Tina Rice

The Learner's Journal

The Learner's Journal by Virginia Knowles is a really useful organizational tool. In fact, it is so nifty that I am going to tell you all about it! The Learner's Journal is for planning lessons and recording accomplishments for one student. If you have five students you will need five Learner's Journals. It can be used for a variety of teaching/learning styles and is extremely user friendly. The journal is divided into sections to record major resources used this year, important literature read, special accomplishments, projects, field trips, and work samples. There are 50 undated weekly lesson plans. Each week is on a two-page spread and includes a schedule of events, a resource log, notes, and the lesson plan. Mrs. Knowles has included several pages of tips for parents that include samples of how to customize The Learner's Journal. The Learner's Journal features a heavy-duty clear plastic front and back cover (great for wiping off sticky fingerprints and protecting important information) over colored cardstockand can be purchased in a number of vibrant colors. I really appreciated the sturdiness of the cover and the lay flat, toddler-proof comb binding. I have four kids, so durability is essential. To purchase The Learner's Journal, visit Virginia Knowles' website at While at the website you can see a sample of The Learner's Journal, learn about her other resources, and sign up for her free e-mail Hope Chest Home School News.

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Common Sense Excellence

Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade by Virginia Knowles is one of two books I believe every Christian home educator should read. It is a comprehensive guide to home educating your child in a variety of subjects (such as Bible, math, reading, language arts, art, and health). Mrs. Knowles is the mother of eight children (tot to teen) and has been home schooling for over a decade. Add this experience to a huge amount of research and you have an incredible resource person for your home school (24/7 with her book). Common Sense Excellence is divided into three sections. Part 1 is titled Common Sense Excellence, Part two is titled Academic Subjects, and Part three is titled Practical Matters. Chapter titles included in part one are: What is Common Sense Excellence, Faith Filled Education, Through the Years, and Choosing your Approach to Education. Part two covers all academic subjects plus Bible and life skills. Part three was my favorite and deals with organization, problem solving, education away from home, and planning a unit study. Also included in Common Sense Excellence are a list of home schooling suppliers and a bibliography of resource books.

Each chapter in Common Sense Excellence includes related Scripture. If you skim books, don't skip over the Bible verses. They are uplifting and fit in very well with the material presented. At the end of each chapter you will find a quote (Mrs. Knowles calls these vintage quotes) relating to the chapter and a box of 1-2-3 Ideas to Remember that sum up the chapter.

Common Sense Excellence is well laid out and easy to navigate. The clear, waterproof cover is easily cleaned (a must have with toddlers). Common Sense Excellence is comb bound which allows it to open flat. All of these features, on top of fabulous material, make this a must-have book (in my humble opinion). If you have limited finances and can only purchase two books on home education, make this one of them!

To purchase Common Sense Excellence visit While at the website you can check out other resources by Virginia Knowles, read back issues of The Hope Chest Home School News (published since February 1998), and subscribe to her bi-monthly e-mail newsletter.

-- Product Review by: Tina Rice, Senior Research, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine